Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Former EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center Lobbying world MORE on Tuesday said that the administration's newly proposed alternative to the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP) will "level the playing field" for coal plants in an era where renewable fuels and liquid natural gas are growing in prominence.
Speaking at an Ohio Chamber of Commerce event, Wheeler praised Trump's new plan, called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, for the flexibility it gives to states to regulate their own coal-fired power plants.
"This will provide more flexibility to states — Obama's plan was more social engineering. We're returning to the core basics of the Clean Air Act by working more cooperatively with states," Wheeler said at the event.
That cooperation includes allowing coal plants the ability to stay operating past the point that they likely would retire under the Obama administration's plan. The new plan eases regulations for coal plants to meet certain environmental air standards determined under the CPP by instead allowing states to determine their own standards for carbon pollution controls.
Wheeler said the new plan would slow the closing of coal plants across the country.
"We're allowing states to set reduction targets for each plant, so it’s not going to require the wholesale closure of fire plants of every type. What it’s really going to do is level the playing field," Wheeler said.
About 40 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants have closed or have plans to shutter, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
In 2017, coal made up 14 percent of U.S. energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Coal consumption in the U.S., the top consumer of the energy source, peaked in 2007 and has declined since.
Coal is a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally. Officials pointed to the Obama-era standards as an administrative bias against coal, as the standards ultimately pushed to phase out the fossil fuel in favor of cleaner energy such as renewable energy and natural gas.